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Your editorial (11, January) “Translation with proven flaws” is a very welcome invitation to re-open the issue of the new translation of the Mass. The most offensive aspect of the affair is the high-handed way in which the translation was imposed on us and the most disappointing aspect is the failure of our bishops to protect us from such behaviour.
In addition to the infelicities of its rhythms and the pig-headed, exclusionary translation of the word “homo” as “man” (as if the word were equivalent to “vir”), there are faults resulting from the mechanically literal translation of the Tridentine Mass.
Firstly, there is an inherent clericalism in the language used in both the original Latin and this translation – for example, the priest wishes the congregation “Peace be with you” but the congregation’s response is “And with your spirit”, suggesting a difference in ranks; so too the words “for our good and the good of your holy Church”.
Secondly, in any event, the words “your spirit” and “my soul will be healed” are both bad theology and bad philosophy in that these formulations adopt the discredited Cartesian dualism which wrongly regards the soul as being different from the person.
Likewise, the use of the word “consubstantial” is both bad theology and bad philosophy; “consubstantial” means literally” of the same substance”, but God is not a creature of substance.
The literal translation of the Confiteor is offensive and controlling; most people are simply not guilty of grievous sins. I suspect that the number of Christians throughout history who have ever committed a grievous sin is a single figure number.
And finally, there are just to many “graciously”s.
The Tridentine Mass in the original was heavily flawed. What is needed is not simply a new translation of it but a rewriting along the lines of the proposals of the late-lamented ICEL.
Lawrence West QC, London
A juxtaposition of news items in The Tablet of 11 January can hardly escape comment. On the one hand we hear that congregations are still giving no more than a lukewarm reception to the new Mass texts; on the other that Bishop Philip Egan is concerned that laity in his diocese are reluctant to give Sunday Mass priority over other commitments, including – in a case he cites – the timing of their Sunday lunch.
There is surely a link here. Of course, no Catholic should doubt the spiritual sustenance provided by the Eucharist. But if, thanks partly to the shortcomings of the Mass texts, that sustenance is offered in the liturgical equivalent of indigestible gruel it is little wonder that Catholics are becoming less enthusiastic about attending the Lord’s table. Perhaps rather than lamenting his parishioners’ lack of commitment Bishop Egan should add his voice to those of the many clergy who are now calling for a review of the unwelcome imposition of the Vox Clara Mass translation.
Tim Burton, Dereham, Norfolk